Cassoulet for the Soul

A cassoulet is a rustic dish that combines beans, usually sausage, some poultry or game, and thyme as its touchstone ingredients.  This is one of the dishes in Southern France where every town, and possibly every family, has a slightly different recipe.  It is an example of a one pot meal where you can really use the most flexibility and imagination to make it your own. The shortest “traditional recipe” takes 2 hours but some go up to 8 hours or more. This may not be the most traditional cassoulet, but one that take about an hour to an hour and a half is fantastic.

This falls into the category of dishes that you can throw whatever you have into the recipe to clear out the cupboard or fridge. Despite being at the beginning of Spring, temperatures are running 10 to 15 degrees below average, so this sounds like a good plan. I have been meaning to write this up for a while, but I failed to update the blog often enough; I hope to do better. Also, calling it a cassoulet and giving it a little hint of presentation value will wow people despite how easy it is to prepare.

Ingredients

  • 1-2oz Bacon/Guanciale chopped
  • 2 4oz toulouse or other sausages
  • 1 Medium White Onion, chopped or diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 ounces white or cannellini beans (the traditional beans of Southern France can be hard to find in the states.)
  • 4 ounces of chicken (Leftovers from a roast chicken work well)
  • ¼ Cup Brandy (or dry vermouth)
  • ½ Cup or more of Chicken Stock (Or water)
  • Thyme
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Parsley

Optional:

  •  Carrots
  •  Celery
  •  Other veg
  •  Other herbs
  •  Other poultry or game

Directions

  • 1. Start with a bit of oil or fat in the pan.  My preference is to take a few ounces of good bacon, guanciale, or other cured pork product and render out the fat over medium-low heat for around 5 minutes.Sausages and Guanciale
  • 2. Add the sausage. I used a toulouse sausage from H.A.M. with the traditional white wine and garlic base. If you don’t care or the flavor or hewing towards authenticity, any good flavorful sausage will do.  Slightly brown the sausage over medium heat.
  • 3. Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves.  Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally.  You want to cook the onions.  Once the onions begin to turn translucent and fragrant, add your chicken if you are using it.
  • 4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  •      4A. Add any other vegetables you are using.  I often add carrots and celery, completing the French mire poix, here. Carrots are sometimes added first because they take longer to cook, but I want the flavor from the onions infused in the rendered fat first.
  •      4B. Add some herbage. Thyme and rosemary are traditional and add to the depth of flavor wonderfully, but Herbageyou can use  whatever you have handy.  I’ve added oregano and celery leaves for versions.
  • 5. Now for the beans! Beans Soaking
  •      5A. If planning ahead, at lunch, set a few handfuls of dried beans under half an inch to an inch of water.  It should be six hours later or so when you are cooking dinner, so drain the beans and add them to the pan.
  •      5B. If, as it is more frequently occurring in my house, you realize you don’t have soaked beans or leftover beans from earlier in the week, take a can of cooked cannellini or great white northern beans.  Make sure that you add the liquid in the can to the cooking pan.
  • 6. Add a quarter cup of brandy here.  The idea is to add some richness and depth of flavor with the brandy being absorbedBrandy Steaming into the components while the alcohol cooks off. If you don’t have an open bottle of brandy, I have used dry (french) vermouth to great effect. Simmer until the alcohol is mostly evaporated and the flavor infused in the food.
  • 7. Stir everything together and add the half cup of stock or other flavorful liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • 8. Transfer your pan to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
  • 9. Add a thin layer of breadcrumbs on the top of the cassoulet, press them in with the back of a spoon to make sure they are damp. Return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  • 10. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Plate so sausage, chicken, beans, and veggies all share the plate and top with as much chopped parsley as you want.

If you are cooking for more than two people or more than two servings at a time, you may want to pre cook the sausage and slice into rounds more like a traditional cassoulet. This makes it a lot easier to portion when ready to serve.  Instead of layering the separately cooked beans, sausage, chicken, and veggies into a large pot to bake for hours on end, you can make a delicious cassoulet in an hour and a half

Maybe I went a little heavy on the parsley

  • http://feu-de-vie.blogspot.com/ K(ate) Muse

    I’ve been looking for a good all-in-one bean recipe like this (particularly with white beans for this time of year)! Oh the glories of a big nutritious recipe that’ll make for hot work-lunches for a week..